Author Archives: Michael Coorlim

About Michael Coorlim

Michael Coorlim is a teller of strange stories for stranger people. He collects them, the oddballs. The mystics and fire-spinners, the sages and tricksters. He curates their tales, combines their elements and lets them rattle around inside his rock-tumbler skull until they gleam, then spills them loose onto the page for like-minded readers to enjoy.

Dev Log: Let the World Burn

A year ago I finished an introductory demo of an RPGMaker Adventure video game, Through the Cracks. It was the story of a dozen people who woke to found themselves in a seemingly abandoned scientific facility, with no memory of how they’d gotten there.

It was a lot of fun to make, but ultimately I decided that my inability to create the art assets myself was a big obstacle. RPGMaker assets have a very particular *look* to them that I was unable to replicate, and commissioning sprites for everything I needed was a lot more expensive than I can handle. And, sadly, games using the stock assets have a bad reputation for poor quality and laziness.

So I wrapped up the demo and turned my eyes to the Unity engine instead. Now, a year later, I find myself turning back to the game, with a new title.

Let the World Burn

Characters
Eight of the playable characters

The issues that led to the project’s abandonment yet remain: I cannot create RPGMaker style art, and I cannot afford to commission it. While I have improved my pixel art skills over the last year, I still can’t replicate that RPGMaker style, and replacing all of the art would take me a long, long time.

My solution is to just not worry about it.

For now I’m just going to work with the stock assets and focus on story and gameplay. The concept is one that keeps drawing me back to it, and while I considered remaking it from scratch in the Unity gamebook framework I’ve been developing, decided that the large cast and exploratory nature does lend itself well to what RPGMaker has to offer.

The RPGMaker art will serve as a placeholder until I’m done, and at that point, if the project’s turned out the way I want it to, I’ll either begin the process of developing an artistic style of my own, or see if I’ve raised enough funding to commission what I need.

If you’re interested in the demo – re-released with a new title screen and copious bugfixes – you can download it here.

Fundraising

I’ve started a game development patreon. This is separate from my general author patreon, simply because the people who read my books might not care about the games, and the people who like my games may not read my books.

The way it works is like this:

  • Supporters at the $5/month level get new development builds of each project first.
  • Supporters at the $3/month level get new development builds a month later.
  • I’ll release the development build to the public one iteration behind what my patrons are seeing.

So, if I release v 0.2 on October 1st, $5 patrons get it right away. $3 patrons get it November 1st. I’ll post it publicly, free, when my $5 patrons get version 0.3.

And that’s it. Right now I don’t have any patrons, but I’ll be following this release pattern anyway. Best to build new habits early, right?

So if you want to help me raise the money to commission art and music, support my growth as a game developer, and want to get what I’m working on before everybody else, consider becoming one of my supporters.

Coorlim Banner

Come see me at the Chicago Steampunk Expo

Eight years ago I was basically homeless, couch-surfing and unable to find work, with a string of low-paying minimum wage jobs running all the way back to high-school. At the end of the month I’ll be a special guest presenter at the first Chicago Steampunk Exposition with eight novels in two award-nominated series to my name.

If you’re in or around the Chicago area September 28th or 29th, feel free to stop by for either of the presentations I’m giving, and maybe stop by my table in the exhibitor hall and I’ll sign something for you.

The Steam Powered Pen

The Steam Powered Pen

Steampunk began as a literary genre, and the explosive growth of self-publishing has only created new opportunities to expand the market. Do you enjoy writing, and want to approach your work from a professional angle? Independent author Michael Coorlim covers the basics of the craft and business of self-publishing steampunk fiction, content marketing, patreon, and building your platform.

On Saturday the 29th at 1pm I’ll be in room Lakeshore A, giving a talk about the creative professional lifestyle, my personal journey as an independent author, and sharing tips and tricks when it comes to both the art and the craft I’ve been practicing for the last eight years.

Keeping the Punk in Steampunk

Keeping the Punk in Steampunk

The Victorian and Edwardian eras were periods of tremendous social change and cultural shifts, and we can incorporate themes of class struggle and early social movements within our steampunk storytelling, whether it be prose, graphic design, or costuming. Author Michael Coorlim discusses the early labor-rights movements, suffragettes, and institutional reformations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On Sunday the 30th I’ll be back in Lakeshore A talking about social change in the late 19th and early 20th century, how that impacts the people who live through it and their fictional representations, and how a steampunk world might accelerate the march of history.

So please, if you’ve the means, stop by.

Dev Log: Minigame Marathon

Minigame Marathon is a challenge in which I endeavor to produce a number of small limited-scope games quickly, spending no more than a week on each. The goal is to both build up my game development portfolio a bit, and to sharpen my skills by taking on a variety of very different game projects.

Each game is centered around a specific mechanic and small in scope, little more than the minimum necessary to qualify as a game.

Airship Assault screenshot
Project 1: Airship Assault

After completing each game I’m planning on hosting it on the ich.io storefront, free to play for all comers. I’ll record a breakdown video where I discuss the game, its core mechanic, and the process of playing it. And that’s it. I move on to the next project.

Project 2: Adventurer

That’s not to say I won’t ever go back to a project and develop it into a larger scale game, especially if there’s interest in it. But for now, the plan is to keep stretching and growing with different small game projects.

Interested?

If you’re interested in following the project I’d suggest either subscribing to my YouTube channel or just following me on Patreon. You don’t have to be a Patron to read the posts on each game, though those supporters will get access to them first, and get free copies of any commercial games I release.

Either way, this is a very interesting project, and I’m excited to see what comes of it.

Cover Reveal: Lighter than Aether

At the end of September I’ll be releasing my 7th Galvanic Century book, Lighter than Aether. Here’s the cover I’ve commissioned from French artist Edouard Noisette:

There’s still quite a bit to do before publication – a final round of manuscript edits, setting up some marketing, both for the book and for my guest appearance at the Chicago Steampunk Expo. As such, and to recoup some of the production costs, I’m running a kickstarter as I have for books in the past.

Kickstarter

The rewards are pretty simple – ebook or paperback copies of either the new book or all seven Galvanic Century titles.

  • $5 – Limited Edition Backer Ebook
  • $15 – Paperback Copy
  • $25 – All the Galvanic Century eBooks
  • $25 – Signed Paperback
  • $100 – All the Paperbacks
  • $200 – All the Paperbacks, signed

More interesting, perhaps, are some of the stretch goals:

  • $800: I commission additional interior art from the cover artist.
  • $2500: I polish up Murder By Clockwork into a professional caliber interactive fiction piece.
  • $5000: Burning Brigid Media produces Lighter than Aether as a full cast audio drama, like we did with Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken. Only this time, everybody gets paid industry standard rates.

So there you have it. Want to help me finish this sucker up? Donate to the kickstarter.

June 2019

June Was Certainly a Month

Okay, here’s what I accomplished last month.

Creative Projects

  • Progress on Lighter than Aether. We’re on draft 2. Everything is still on track to have the paperback release in time for my Chicago Steampunk Expo guest appearance.
  • Commissioned Lighter than Aether cover art! Working with an amazing artist this time around. Will eventually post a cover reveal, but my Patreon supporters will get a first look before everyone else.
  • Some work on Wayfarer, but Lighter than Aether is still the focus as its deadline looms.
  • Signed up for the interactive fiction Intro Comp, but I don’t know that I’ll have time to enter anything by the end of July.
  • Really I was mostly working on finishing Lighter Than Aether.

Social Media & Marketing

  • Designing banners and other flair for my Chicago Steampunk Expo appearance.
  • Started posting Fictive Memes. Maybe these count as creative projects?
  • Did some blogging here. Trying to get back into the habit.
  • Vlogged a bit, too.

Hobbies/Free Time

  • Started an indie gaming channel on YouTube. This could probably count as marketing for my game dev stuff, but it’s mostly for funsies.
  • Started talking with some old friends about getting together to play an RPG campaign. In person. For realsies.

Looking into July

For the most part I’m going to try and get the second draft of Lighter than Aether completed and off to my beta readers, so I can spend August polishing it and get hardcopies ordered by the time the Expo rolls around. I’ll try to get some work on the IntroComp entry in there too, somehow. And I hope to get together with my friends to game once or twice.

Busy busy.

Every Book a Lesson Learned

I started writing novel-length fiction in 2013, and have published ten such books in the past six years. Each time the process has been different, each time I’ve basically had to re-teach myself the process of what it is to write a novel based on my fuzzy recollections of the last time.

Writing Lighter Than Aether has been no different. I feel, again, like a novice working on his first book.

The Implication

It only feels like I’m starting from scratch, though. Each time I write something new, I’m starting from a firmer base, I avoid mistakes I’ve made in the past, and I construct the foundation of the story a little more strongly. The uncertainty comes from the fact that I’m trying something new with each novel. It’s always an undiscovered country.

Of course, if each book is better than the last, this means that each book is worse than the one that comes next. This means that the earliest available book I have for purchase is also the worst introduction for new readers.

bartleby and james steampunk cover

And of course, in my case, that’s Bartleby and James, the first book in my soon-to-be-seven-book-long Galvanic Century Series.

Yeah. I won’t contest this. It’s a perfectly fine book, but bereft of the lessons I learned while writing it. And the lessons from the next book, and the next, and the next… let’s be honest, it’s the most bereft book I’ve written.

That doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. Not at all. I’m quite fond of the book.

Just a pity that for many readers it’ll be their first impression of who I am and what I have to offer.

Book 7

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately as I write Lighter than Aether, the seventh book in the series. I’m quite fond of it. I think it’s the best thing I’ve written to date (I always think that, and for the above reasons, I’m usually right.) However, the only people who’re going to read it are the people who’ve read books 1-6 and enjoyed each one.

That’s just the nature of a series. I write my books as fairly stand-alone, but most readers are unwilling to jump into the middle of something.

And that’s too bad. If I had to go back and change things, I probably would have turned Galvanic Century into two or three trilogies. And I could, too… rebrand them that way.

But hey, I got another book to write.

Retrogaming 1979

We covered the Atari VCS’s 1979 offerings last time, so check that out if you missed it.

Arcade Games of 1978

In 1979 our arcade sprits get a lot more colorful, as you can see with Bomb Bee and Galaxian. Asteroids is perhaps the most persistent classic from the year, but Lunar Rescue and Sheriff are some games that are perhaps a bit underrated – the latter being one of the first twin-stick shooters.

Apple II Games of 1979

Microcomputer games, meanwhile, limp along with limited functionality. Many of them are hugely popular – as with Lemonade Stand, a simple but ubiquitous economic sim, and Apple Trek, a port of an already famous (and famously unlicensed) Star Trek game that has the Enterprise flying around and blowing up Klingon ships. You know, like on the show.

But the big historic game to come out from 1979 is none other than Akalabeth, Richard Garriott’s precursor to the landmark Ultima series. It isn’t just the connection to Ultima that makes Akalabeth notable, it presents a number of impressive technological firsts in the genre of computer role-playing games, despite (or due to) its largely procedural nature.

TRS-80 Games of 1979

The TRS-80 started off at a bit of a disadvantage and never really pulled itself out of it, but it does get ports of a number of famous classic games released in the late 70s and early 80s. The notable release in 1979 is Datestones of Ryn, an action adventure game in the Dunjonquest series and prequel to Temple of Apshai.

Another surprisingly robust TRS-80 release this year was Galactic Empire, a game that gives the player a surprisingly hands-off approach to control and conquest. The delegation to NPCs here really appeals to me, and it’s just darn impressive what they managed on the TRS-80.

Flash fiction

Fictive Meme: Roll Initiative

Flash fiction

A long time ago I produced a series of flash fiction as text over images. I don’t remember what I called it or why I stopped, and I don’t think I have them up online or archived anywhere.

Anyway, I’m doing it again, and this time I’m thinking of calling them Fictive Memes until I come up with a better name.

Here’s the first, “Roll Initiative.” I’ll post one every Saturday as long as inspiration carries me.